By Courtney Rundell
Courtney Rundell is a freelance blogger for the International Bipolar Foundation and the North Hollywood Patch. She speaks all over California about thriving with alcoholism, bipolar, and PTSD.
When Courtney was diagnosed bipolar in 2006, a life she never knew was possible began. She’s devoted to inspiring and sparking hope in others now that she’s finally a free woman.
Her personal blog can be found at www.BeePea.com.
Sinead O’Connor’s recent decision to cancel her upcoming tour “due to bipolar disorder” took courage few know. While putting one’s career on hold due to cancer or Parkinson’s evokes worldwide sympathy, doing so because of mental illness shines a light on how much stigma still surrounds mental health issues.
I know all too well the vulnerability it takes to admit defeat to mental illness. Six years ago, I was placed on a 72-hour hold in a locked down psychiatric unit and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
I was committed because I was overcommitted.
Shortly after getting my Master’s Degree, I landed my first paying directing gig when I was in the darkest depression I’d ever experienced. I felt like my career was finally taking off so I took the job, banking on the hope that my old frenetic energy would return like Mighty Mouse and save the day.
Normally, I could summon the energy. When I was a stage actress, I used it to memorize lines. When I was a student, I employed it to stay up all night studying for an exam. After my tasks were achieved, I hibernated. I’d literally sleep around the clock until I was able to function again. That was simply how I operated, so it didn’t seem peculiar to me.
But this time was different – that energy was nowhere to be found. My depression grew darker and heavier until I was finally buried and crushed by my rapidly piling responsibilities. My only answer was suicide.
Then I was in an ambulance and the gig was up.
Being diagnosed bipolar was shocking, yet it made sense. I often felt like I had two different personalities – one manic, one depressive. My manic self would run around making promises that my depressive self couldn’t possibly fulfill. Then the shame of not coming through on the promises I’d made only pushed me deeper into depression, creating a vicious circle of darkness and disgrace.
Knowing that I let down many people was beyond humiliating. A deep sense of vulnerability and rawness came with admitting that I was too sick to follow through with my commitments and my sickness only magnified the already negative situation.
My world fell apart, and while I felt like everyone was pointing and laughing at me, I was by no means in the public eye. I can’t begin to imagine what Sinead’s feeling right now.
Sinead O’Connor has lived a life that most people can’t imagine. She’s toured the world. She’s the first-ever priestess to be ordained. She’s given of herself and her celebrity to fight hunger and poverty. She’s a human rights advocate and has spoken out against AIDS/HIV stigma.
And she’s mother to four children. That in itself is a feat unimaginable to me.
Therefore, in lieu of judgment, might I suggest we applaud Sinead’s bravery? Applaud her immeasurable courage. Applaud her honesty. Applaud her humanness.
We are not our accomplishments. Tours can be rescheduled, life cannot.
Brava, Sinead. Brava.